Hospital Trying to commit person with severe ME to mental health ward

PwME appeals for help

“They’re trying to commit me to a mental health ward with very severe ME… I need help.” This how a brief and urgent email appeal to #MEAction began last Friday. The email was from Thane Fredrickson (also known as Thane Black on social media), a person with very severe ME who is currently a patient at HCMC hospital in Minnesota. 

Thane initially posted in a twitter thread about his situation:

“A week ago I voluntarily admitted myself to the hospital to get help [because] I am losing weight as a result of increased food intolerances, secondary to my very severe #MECFS. A psychiatrist here decided that [I’m] mentally ill…”

Thane had gone to the hospital on January 16 seeking nutritional support. He has both ME/CFS and MCAS diagnoses, and has been having increasing trouble maintaining his weight and nutrition, despite eating as much as he can tolerate. The medical staff ran basic diagnostic tests, but not the tests often needed by these patients. When they found no abnormalities, the staff decided that Thane was potentially a harm to himself and put him on a 72-hour hold, while they evaluated him for potential commitment.

ME community rallies but hospital refuses to listen

#MEAction and ME advocates from across the country, including Drs. Ron Davis, Janet Dafoe and Ami Mac, David Tuller, the Minnesota ME/CFS Alliance, and many others, rallied around Thane to provide support, advocacy and public attention to his situation.

Outreach was done to alert hospital medical staff to the various problems that ME/CFS and MCAS patients can have with their digestive systems, in the hopes that the hospital would agree to release Thane at the end of the hold. Despite these efforts, the hospital has decided to proceed with having Thane involuntarily committed to psychiatric care, and filed a Petition for Commitment on January 26, 2021.

Thane has been assigned a court-appointed attorney and there will be a preliminary hearing before the Judge. His lawyer is in touch with various experts on ME/CFS, including Drs. Davis, Dafoe, and Mac. #MEAction and advocates from across the ME community will continue to fight for Thane’s right to appropriate medical care for ME. We will share information as it becomes available.

How to support Thane

#MEAction is working in close communication with Thane and will let you know of ways we need the community to mobilize for him. Right now you can donate to this fundraiser organized to support his medical and legal expenses.

Donate Now

“One of the strongest people I know”

“Thane has shown nothing but strength, resiliency and immense appreciation for all the support that he has been getting,” said Lisa Alioto, Minnesota ME/CFS Alliance Vice President. “He has noted many times how, ‘it helps a lot knowing there are people out there who care about me and are trying to help me.’” 

Another Minnesota ME/CFS Alliance volunteer, Suzzane Wheeler, observed in her recent visit to the hospital to see Thane:

“Thane was quiet and resting in the dark, with a mask on his face.  He asked the nurse to bring him lunch when we were done with our visit.  He told me that he was so appreciative at the outpouring of help throughout this crisis.  

I had corresponded with Thane in the past and knew that he loved to fly and was working toward his private pilot’s license prior to his illness. He became ill just prior to taking his final flight evaluation.  When I entered the room he recognised me (under my mask) and greeted me saying, ‘You are a helicopter pilot.’  I replied, ‘I was an Army pilot prior to getting ill with ME/CFS.’  We talked about flying and I told him I was so happy he had the experience of flying. 

Thane seemed hopeful in spite of the stress of his current situation and lack of freedom.  We also talked about horses as he had seen my recent photos about horses on social media. I told him that when he gets a little better, I’d be happy to take him out to visit my horse–which is the most calm and gentle horse you’ll ever meet.

It was obvious to me how much Thane truly wants to get better.  It’s difficult to comprehend all that he is up against right now. But while Thane is physically very weak, mentally he is one of the strongest people I know.”

Misdiagnosing Severe ME

Mistakenly diagnosing the debilitating symptoms of very severe ME as a psychiatric illness or “functional disorder” is inappropriate and harms people with ME. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clearly states that “ME/CFS is a biological illness, not a psychologic disorder.” 

People with ME and their loved ones know how difficult it can be to try to explain to people what the experience of living with, caring for, or treating very severe ME  is actually like. There is an excellent video series on severe ME from Dialogues for a neglected illness project that gives voice to the unique needs of patients with very severe ME and addresses issues of symptom management and hospital admission.

Although there needs to be far more research investment into treating very severe ME, important principles for its recognition and care are detailed in recent publications like the 2017 ME/CFS Pediatric Primer (the section on severe ME is broadly applicable for both adults and children). Table 5 also highlights the key differences between depression/anxiety disorders and ME symptoms.


27 thoughts on “Hospital Trying to commit person with severe ME to mental health ward”

  1. I am saddened to hear of this man’s story. The psychiatric community seems to ignore many diagnoses, including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, that is severely debilitating and also, recognized by the CDC as a true physical medical entity.

    I hope this man is able to get out of the inappropriate treatment by psychiatrists and instead, referred to a nutritional support therapist. I do not believe our hospitals are equipped to treat CFS. The patient will probably need to be referred to outpatient care. I also hope this campaign brings enough funds for him to properly respond to an unethical psychiatric commitment.

  2. Thank you, MEAction, for your support of Thane and for alerting us all to this deeply disturbing abuse by the medical community. I am glad that there are people on the ground there that are helping him and that the rest of us are able to help Thane in some way by donating to his GoFundMe page.

  3. Thank you for leading the advocacy on behalf of Thane! I know that the whole ME/CFS community stands with him. ♥️

    One small note: This post mentions David Tuller. Since many of his critics deliberately omit that he has an earned doctorate in public health from Berkeley, I think we should be deliberate about identifying him as Dr. Tuller.

  4. I would like to ask the following:
    Why did Thane commit himself into the Mental Hospital – did he understand & was he informed concerning the State’s laws & the ramifications of what he was signing at the time? What rights does he have at this time?
    Was he transported to that facility by himself or by the State?
    Thank you. It would have been more helpful to know about this more thoroughly.

  5. This action against Thane is frighting and medically negligent. What psychiatrist does not read what NICE and the C.D.C. said about M.E /CFS. He has treated this man cruelly and is not keeping his hippocratic oath of doing no harm. ME/CFS is a medical physical illness. Thankfully, there are now a number of new studies completed which prove that point. He is entitled to sue you for medicall abuse and neglience. This may be the only issue that will motivate you to care for Thane, a very ill man, appropriately.

    1. A second opinion and/or intervention is needed from a Psychiatrist who treats and/or understands ME.
      It appears that the issue is dangerous weight loss severe enough to be life threatening? Although eating disorders are considered to be a mental health/psychiatric disorder treatment is usually provided at an Eating Disorder Treatment Facility and/or Center.

      I am a master’s level mental health practitioner with 20+ years experience, although I am no longer working and reside in a different state than Thane.

    2. Thane, sending you lots of love, light & healing thoughts at this uncertain and stressful time. I wonder if due to your inner strength you will be the person who will change, not only this ridiculous decision about classing you as mentally ill, but stop others being classed in the same way.
      Many are walking with you, stay strong. Love from Sue in North Wales, UK

  6. ME/CFS is a serious illness and disability. In the UK, people suffering ME/CFS are protected under the ‘Equality Act 2010’.

    Quote: Because ME is a long-term and fluctuating condition, those affected are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 if the illness has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

    The public need more awareness of how seriously debilitating ME/CFS can be. The media need to inform the public with news pieces and documentaries. The lack of awareness adds to the misery of living with ME/CFS.

  7. I cannot comprehend how a medical system could commit someone who voluntarily seeks help to receive suplimental nutrition. But he has ME/CFS, as do I, so I understand completely how a physician could be terrified of an illness they do not understand and resort to Victim Blaming; treating out of Fear rather than compassion, active listening, and humility.

    I think it is an accurate statement that EVERYONE with ME/CFS has some type of digestive disorder(s) AND new (pre-CFS) or worsened sensitivities to foods (and many other things in the environment). Beyond the Primary Diagnostic Criteria of Post Exertion Malaise (malaise does not do justice to the downward spiral of ‘overdoing it’ which can result from the most basic, simple ADL’s……) , Digestive Disruption, Neurological Sensitivities, Heart Rate Irregularities, Difficulty thinking clearly, Temperature and Metabolism disregulation – put them on a chart and each person with ME/CFS might rate each of these to a higher or lower degree of Severity and Frequency in their own pattern but they will, by definition, all be there to meet the criteria for ME/CFS. Does he meet these criteria???? If he does, and the doctors think he’s just ‘making it all up…I wish for a way to put them in his body for 72 hours and see what they think then…….

    Furthermore, in what way is he possibly a threat to himself?? Much less to others????? He came in ASKING FOR HELP!!!!! If you are offering him help that HE knows will not be helpful (or might even be harmful) , why not try LISTENING to what he has to say. Perhaps you believe he is being “manipulative”?? Again, see above. 72 hours in HIS BODY!!!!

    I have Endured ME/CFS since October of 1985. That’s 35 years. I had to figure the disease and the best treatments for myself, all by myself. I was told by medical professionals that what I had was “just stress,dear”. So now I guess we’ve swung to the other end of the spectrum to committing people who are voluntarily, and at great risk to their health (especially during a pandemic) , seeking help, because the medical professionals STILL ARE NOT LISTENING!!!!!!!!!!! Much less believing……. Many severe disorders do not show up on “tests” but they very much do exist, are real, and can be debilitating. Why is ME/CFS viewed so differently???????

    I’ve never met this person. I don’t follow blogs. But I most definitely could tell you if someone has ME/CFS or not by speaking with them, listening to them, and really looking at them because I know this illness from the inside out. I would be happy to help. But I’m guessing the professionals would greatly doubt my expertise and experience.

    I have a close relative who has struggled for years with alcohol and chemical addiction. At one point he was actively suicidal. And he was a danger to others by continuously driving while intoxicated (including with his own children in the car) . He has been bounced from dozens of treatment centers to jail to the streets to detox to hotels where he very nearly froze to death passing out in the parking lot on a bitter cold MN night in January. We could not get him committed because the degree to which one has to be a danger to oneself (at least if you’re an alcoholic) is extremely high. So it is difficult for me to imagine what Thane is saying or doing that could possibly meet the criteria for self harm when regularly intoxicating oneself to a .40 BAC (NOT .04). But .40 BAC does NOT constitute self harm. AND THEN getting in a car and driving. Repeatedly. Often. Sometimes killing innocent pedestrians, as happened just the other night here in MN. That could easily have been my relative.

    I don’t know Thane. Or his full story. But I DO KNOW ME/CFS. And a little bit about what it takes to commit a person to psychiatric care in MN. So I write this in hopes that it helps clarify and bring to light the absurdity of threatening to commit someone who very likely really does have ME/CFS and who has reached a point of such physical weakness as to SEEK OUT medical help of his own accord. It simply does not add up.

    I send him hope and healing energy. And a plea for a peaceful and thoughtful resolution to this situation.

  8. Scary stuff. God bless you, Thane. Thanks, ME Action, for your response. Please keep us informed.

  9. Please ask Dr. Nash at NIH to communicate with the physicians and legal authorities about ME/CFS. They can hardly argue with him. And it won’t hurt the NIH one little bit to see first hand the crap we have to deal with that makes us sicker when we are desperate enough to reach out for medical help even though we know it usually doesn’t work out to be help. That situation could have been alleviated decades ago by the NIH, but it wasn’t. Time to step up.

    If you send a petition asking Nash’s help, I will sign it. But I wonder if just asking him directly might be enough. You could also ask folks from the Open Medicine Foundation to help, especially any psychiatrists associated with OMF. He needs an MD to come in and refute the testimony of the psychiatrist. Who is his regular doctor?

  10. Approaching it from the administrative side:

    1. File a complaint with the hospital’s risk manager
    2. File a complaint with the JCAHO
    3. Hospitals do not like bad publicity so consider going to the press

  11. This borders on criminal! I really hope that Thane’s team sues the hospital for the adverse effects that having to go through this process will cause on his health, due to a doctor with too much power refusing to listen to the experts. It’s like a psychiatrist refusing to do tests for cancer, and refusing to listen to cancer specialists, refusing appropriate treatment and consigning them to a psych ward! They wouldn’t be able to get away with that with other diseases; nor should they be able to get away with this. It beggars belief that this kind of thing is still happening in this day and age, after so much evidence of the physiological etiology of this disease is available. Suing the hospital will make an example of this hospital with their abuse and hopefully prevent it happening again, and make other medical establishments and doctors think twice before attempting the same thing! Are there any legal experts in his area that do pro bono work for such cases, or that only charge fees if/when they win?

  12. Oh, I just can’t believe this is still happening. How can doctors now be so far behind? It’s 2021! And this story, in particular, carries an element of pain which resonates intensely with me. Over elelven years ago, just two weeks before becoming unwell with ME/CFS, I had been offered my first job as a commercial pilot. The love of my life. The dream I’d spent eight years working towards, between saving and studying. Thane, I’m so, so sorry you are facing what you’ve told us about. It’s unfathomable that you are still being treated by doctors whose knowledge is so poor. If only they cared as much about their profession as you do about flying. We are all thinking of you and you will not leave our hearts.

  13. Rebecca A Berens

    Hi Thane. I’m so very sorry for the horrible and wrong situation you are in. I have been severely ill for 4 years and treated terribly as well by doctors that have no clue how to treat patients with ME. I am on your side and will do whatever I can to help you. I live Wisconsin and I want you to know that I stand by your side. Sending lots of love and gentle hugs and hope that you will get the support you need asap. ❤

  14. This situation is sad and scary- and should never be tolerated in a civilized society. If a medical facility has insufficient knowledge of a condition- which is obvious in this case- it’s unacceptable to simply take out shovels and try to bury him in the system to avoid offering treatment. That’s what we expect to come from the darkest, most depraved places on earth- not the Western medical system. This is abominable, and the thought that we’re only hearing of him because he’s so knowledgeable and active in his healing frightens me to think of those we haven’t heard of, that this is happening to! There are people involved that need more than their practice licenses re-assessed, they need the threat to having their own freedom taken away.

  15. Praying for you
    It will be ok
    Where has everyone been
    Since I joined
    I have been trying to tell all this horrible
    Mistreatment from medical from day one!!

    They have sent me from ERS that have no earthly clue nor want to listen to me what ME CFS is

    I feel very sadden n yes!! Angry that this is still going on despite all our amazing ME info. This is total bull nyou have a right to be very frighten as to be so very sick with ME n they wanna say think you r mental

    This is DRS gave bad PTSD.order yrs not believing me but most time it was in fact the mental ward nurses who fought for me n told me as I knew n DRS I didnt need b there bcause I was most def not mental n thier Socail workers too talk to me n came same conclusion

    Mayb some will see why when things r mention that r big triggers for me I as this tex alot

    It brings back up
    All this so horrible disgusting in humane junk!!

    It was a physic.dr back in 1997 that said after all diff. Kind of meds for anxiety n depression never wrk.that he thought I had something call CFS n he thought I had it very severe I lost alot of no time

    He ask me when I had my anxiety attacks it was always after I had over done

    So he didnt want to but he said he wanted get recorded by nurses in mental ward what I wld b doing when the anxiety ATTACKS WLD come on!!

    As they soon found out as I said anything from just getting up n walking to my bathroom

    To sitting about 5 mins r less in support gruop meetings!!

    I am very labled my medical chart from past from this type horrible Medical NEGLECT n ABUSE
    BCuz others mostly ERS hospital s

    This why big part I’ve wanted someone help me get GODs n my severe ME story out!!

    I was fine when I was a very small child till I came dwn.with a very bad severe case of mononucleosis

    54 yrs later close to 50 surgries that cld have been avoid if DRS in ERS wld have not said was in my head phyosamtic

    I probaly spell that wrong
    But these places cld never keep me

    It is all this MEeverything to do with it very scary

    Hang in there my dear friend

    Fellow severe ME sufferer
    If there is anything I can do that may cld b of some help plz let me know?

    I did have legal help me as my former pt.advocare /LCSW.phyc. knew n help get alot of the garbage out of my medical chart then few yrs ago

    She knew more than anyone in this world!!

    Mayb others will see this when anyone mentions to me talk to counselor etc.
    Why I get very upset come back at them at times bcuz being so physically sick n part medical that we shld b able to trust to help us not labled n HARM us alot worse!!

    We have severe ME/ME that Dont!!

    To me this is all nothing short of horrible

    Playing GOD!!

    I was in NURSING yrs ago n kept on crashing over n over at wrk lot times n passing out n woke up I was in ER.

    They say stress IBD
    Walking n exercise good for
    But more I done worse I got n end right back in ER.

    I’m soooooo sorry !!
    To almost to of being physically sick to my stomach with much emptiness of nite mare Hell on earth n madden

    This is why I get BEYOND upset as to this medical n nones thinking n think they have a right to just take over our lives!!

    Sounds more like hitlers crap!!

    I’m sorry but true!!

    How can any of this be happening?

    It’s your life!!!

    Plz.know you r in my heart , thoughts, prayers my friend ♡

    If I can help in any way I feel as I can as I’m not at all well but as this n most things especially as this push to do I’ll do my best as my severe ME etc allows me to do!!
    Hang in ther n know you r loved n not alone!!
    Severe ME/Severe Fibro.
    Etc n Etc.
    Fellow sufferer ME etc.Self PT.ADVOCATE!! Ele volunteer christian counselor WADV.43 yrs now n life WELLNESS coach ,
    Cancer survivor, multiple Chronic illness Spoonie🗣💪🏻🦋📖🌐🕊🙏🏻

  16. Completely agreed Jamie!! How many more ?! Not j missing but “buried alive” in this horrific way?

    Thane, you’ve been in my thoughts all week. We are ready to fight for you if necessary; in the meantime please get some PEACe and RESt wherever you can in the middle of this fight!!!

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